New Year’s Resolution to become a Foster Carer?
Christmas is a time when thoughts are focused on family and children and possibly on the New Year ahead. So now the tree and decorations are down for another year, these thoughts may now have developed into New Year Resolutions.
For some people, these resolutions have included a decision to take positive steps towards doing something to help those in society who are less fortunate, such as vulnerable children. For a few, this may have gone as far as finding out about becoming a foster carer, If this is in your mind, you are quite rightly very excited about the challenges ahead and the positive difference you personally can make to the life of a child.
To give you the best chance of success with your resolutions, and without wanting to dampen your enthusiasm for the journey ahead (because we desperately need more of the right sort of foster carers), we think that there are a few things you should consider before making that first phone call to a fostering organisation.
Our top 10 important things to consider about becoming a foster carer.
- The first and obvious one is do lots of research on fostering to find out what precisely is involved. There are lots of myths and misunderstanding surrounding foster care so make sure you are possession of the facts. For example: some people want to help vulnerable children, but dismiss fostering because they think it is voluntary and they cannot afford to do it. A generous fostering allowance makes fostering possible for most. Website such as this one is a good source of information.
- Understand from the outset that fostering is a 24/7, 365 days a year task - an extremely rewarding task, but like anything that is worthwhile in life you have to work at it.
- You also need to recognise that to be a foster carer does not involve just you; you will need to rely on the support of your network of family and friends in addition to the levels of support provided by the fostering organisation. So, talk to your family and friends about your ambition and what it might entail. Are they with you?
- If you have some preconceptions about the sort of children you want to look after, then perhaps you should open your mind and think about a wider range of children you might be prepared to help. To get a child that precisely fits your initial vision is unlikely, and that will lead to frustration, disenchantment and ultimately disappointment – for everyone!
- For many considering foster care, it will have been years since they left school. Fostering is about learning and applying new skills. If you do not have the appetite to learn, then perhaps fostering is not for you. By becoming a foster carer you are joining a band of professionals, and the more skills you have, the better level of care you can deliver for children and young people. What could be better than learning new skills and transforming the life of a very unhappy child?
- Remember, many looked after children have been let down in their lives by adults, and sometimes by bureaucracy and systems, so when they arrive at your home do not expect them to be grateful! You have to win their trust and help them deal with their issues. This is not an overnight task. Fostering is often described by our carers as a real rollercoaster ride, scary at times, an adrenalin rush at others, but hugely satisfying and pleasurable when met with a smile on children’s faces.
- Are you a team player? Being a foster carer involves working with a group of professional to deliver the best outcomes for the child. These will involve social workers, trainers, often psychologists, educational specialists etc. If you cannot work as a part of team – then think again about whether fostering is for you. All our carers derive great satisfaction from being a part of a winning team and in having their specific skills and important contributions recognised.
- On a practical level, you get a generous fostering allowance when you have a child in placement. However not all placements are long term and sometimes, sadly placements can break down and the child moves on to another foster carer. In this event can you survive financially until you get another placement? If you have the space, energy and skills, then you may be able to look after more than one child, which can help you plan your finances. If you are out of work or on benefits, speak to one of our staff who can advise on any impact fostering may or may not have on your circumstances.
- One of the key decisions you will have to make early on in the process is what type of fostering organisation do you want to join? You have three initial choices, fostering for a Local Authority, a charity or with one of the Independent Fostercare Agencies such as Family Fostering Partners. They all have to work to a minimum standard; all are inspected at least annually by CSSIW in Wales, or every three years by Ofsted in England. They all have to provide training and support. Some are big and owned by Private Equity companies, other are smaller and often owned by family and friends, for example, Family Fostering Partners, who are equally as professional. Each has a different culture and feel. The great thing is it gives you choice, so find one where you feel comfortable, providing of course that it ticks all the boxes in terms of the service you are looking for.
- Finally, when you have done your research, re-examine why you think you want to be a foster carer. Are you still determined? Are you confident that you are emotionally and physically robust and still committed to transforming the lives of vulnerable children? If so, you will probably make a great foster carer. If you decide to go ahead, then please make us one of the organisations you talk to. We are happy to help and we don’t put people under any obligation or pressure – that’s our guarantee to you.
Have a Happy and peaceful New Year to you all and make those New Year resolutions a reality, especially if they involve becoming a foster carer.